Former Zodiak and Endemol Shine Execs Form Asacha Media Group

Gaspard de Chavagnac, Marina Williams Split - H - 2020
Credit: Asacha Media Group.

The new pan-European production company, backed by equity from Oaktree Capital Management, has taken majority stakes in Italy's Picomedia and Stand By Me and French group Mintee Studio.

M&A business in Europe has largely been put on hold during the coronavirus shutdown, so it was a surprise Thursday to see Italian production companies Picomedia and Stand By Me and French TV group Mintee Studios merge under a new corporate umbrella, the Asacha Media Group.

Former Zodiak Media Group CEO Gaspard de Chavagnac and Marina Williams, an ex-COO of Endemol Shine, launched Asacha with equity backing from Oaktree Capital Management. The company has taken majority stakes in Picomedia, Stand By Me and De Chavagnac's Mintree and is eyeing further European acquisitions.

In a statement, Asacha said it would focus on producing non-English-language scripted content for linear and on-demand platforms with a core territory focus on continental Europe. But the company is not limiting itself to fiction, saying it will also produce reality series, kids' entertainment, factual programming and documentaries.

Gaspard de Chavagnac and Marina Williams will head up Asacha Media Group as co-CEOs and will be joined by Marc-Antoine d’Halluin, another former Zodiak CEO, currently CEO of the Mid-East based MBC Group, who will take on the role of vice chairman of Asacha's supervisory board.

Stand By Me boss Simona Ercolani joins Asacha as group chief creative officer, entertainment, factual and kids while Picomedia head Roberto Sessa will join the supervisory board of the new company. The founding partners of all three companies as well as Williams will take equity stakes in Asacha Media Group alongside Oaktree. Asacha will be headquartered in Paris.

Picomedia and Stand By Me are both established production houses in Italy. Picomedia produced the gangster series Escape from the Mafia for Italian public broadcaster RAI as well as feature films including Sergio Castellitto's Twice Born (2012) with Penélope Cruz, a co-production with Medusa, and the Stefano Mordini-directed thriller The Invisible Witness (2018) co-produced with Warner Bros. in Italy.

Stand By Me specializes in live-action kids series, including Sara & Marti, which just wrapped its third season on Disney Channel Italy, and was adapted as a feature film last year. Other credits include local cheaters reality series High Infidelity for Discovery.

De Chavagnac launched Mintree Studios together with French producers Jacques Salles and Floriane Cortes in 2017. The company says it has several titles in development at “major French networks” and “global platforms.”

Asacha said it is in negotiations to buy other production companies in major markets across the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region.

While Asacha pushes ahead, the coronavirus crisis has put bigger European television deals on hold. Banijay Group’s $2.2 billion acquisition of Endemol Shine, producers of Peaky Blinders and Black Mirror, is reportedly wobbling, with French-based Banijay looking for a way out of the deal with Endemol Shine owners Disney and Apollo Global Management.

Scandiavia's Nordic Entertainment Group has put its planned sale of its non-scripted production, branded entertainment and events businesses — comprising a dozen companies — on hold as most of Europe remains in COVID-19 lockdown. German broadcast group ProSiebenSat.1 has also called a halt to its planned sale of Love is Blind production house Red Arrow Studios.